Sobriety test results in fatal Route 28 wreck 'surprising'
Even though Jared Schillinger told authorities he consumed between six and eight beers before crashing his car into another vehicle — killing its driver along Route 28 — a forensic toxicologist said Thursday the Indiana Township man would have had to have drunk 12 or 13 beers before he got into his car.
Schillinger, 30, is charged with homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, involuntary manslaughter and related charges in the death of Rikki Fleming about 11:16 p.m. Feb. 16, 2013. He is facing a five-year mandatory prison term.
Authorities said Schillinger, who began drinking about 11:30 a.m. that day, failed two field-sobriety tests and had a blood-alcohol level of 0.23 percent, nearly three times the legal limit to drive.
The alcohol would have impaired Schillinger's vision, motor skills and ability to multitask, Jennifer Janssen, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's chief toxicologist, told Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Thomas E. Flaherty.
“He would not have been able to operate a motor vehicle safely,” Janssen said.
But a witness for the defense — called out of turn because of scheduling conflicts — said that while Schillinger's blood-alcohol level was high, officers and others who interacted with him after the crash did not say he appeared to be drunk.
“With the blood level reported in this case, I would have expected much worse performance (on the field sobriety tests),” said Dr. Lawrence Guzzardi, a Philadelphia physician. “This is a very surprising, very unusual situation, in my experience.”
Schillinger's lawyers are expected to argue that while their client had been drinking, alcohol did not cause the crash.
Four witnesses said they saw Schillinger's Volkswagen's hatchback zigging and zagging through traffic at high speeds leading up to the crash.
The crash ejected Fleming from her Hyundai. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office determined Fleming died of blunt-force trauma.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.